China’s Accelerating Trade Growth Masks An Increasingly Fragmented “Factory of the World”

9 May

Last month, China’s exports surged by 14.7%, up from 10% in March, showing positive signs of a fragile economic recovery thus far. While exports and manufacturing remain the key drivers of its economic growth, waves of strikes and riots among migrant workers in Southern China reveal a less than happy story behind the production lines of “the factory of the world”.

Migrant workers from rural China continue to face social discrimination and unequal rights in cities. Although their cheap labour have fueled China’s boom, they are becoming increasingly dissatisfied at the level of legal protection, benefits and basic rights compared to urban citizens.

Yet, it was China’s decision to adopt market principles in urban areas, in combination with stagnant rural reforms since the 1980s which forced mass urban migration in the 1990s. This is a problem that has lacked a comprehensive response from the party, and without a solution the growing social unrest and mass demonstration will continue to destabilize China’s economic recovery with the potential to erupt into something even more critical.



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